Ledr project: Leatherwork

Today we checked in on Ledr’s progress with our partners at Abas Leather. A bit of history: at one time New England was the leatherwork capital of the US – particularly for shoes and more ‘precision’ leather goods, like wallets & bags. As recent as the 1980’s there were 100’s of leather shops of all kinds catering to the industry in the area. Today, most of that work has moved offshore, so we’re thrilled to be able to work with Abas on this project. They are currently really BUSY at the moment with Ledr and many other projects, with some exciting new work on their horizon… good news for both of us!

Since we LOVE production tools, one of their more interesting machines is an automated 2-axis cutting table used for optimizing the odd-shaped components of baseball gloves from an irregular leather hide profile. Interesting to watch – it scans the hide first, then in software it lays out the ideal cutter path to achieve maximum piece yield from the hide. Very little scrap is left at the end of the process, very efficient.

While automation is there to help achieve repeatable quality and reduce scrap, production leatherwork is still very much a skilled, hands-on process. Our project is a bit more manual then the larger projects they have, requiring a more traditional press die to cut out the external shape & mark the location for the button stitches. The Ledr logo embossing is partially automated, but the closure button is still sewn on by hand.

The Ledr tool roll run will be complete this week, tubes arrive on Friday, packaging & wallets will be finished early next week, shipping begins very soon – we are very much on schedule with everything!

 

Ledr project: Paper > Tubes

Ever wonder how a cardboard tube is made? Who hasn’t! Today we found out. The Ledr Tool Roll will be shipping out in a custom-made cardboard tube and as part of our ‘mission’, we identified Marshall Paper Tube of Canton, MA, a tube paper maker within our 100 mile area.

In business since 1943, Marshall can produce paper tubes of any diameter – 1/2″ up to large concrete form scale, at ANY length. In fact, they have been known to angle the machinery to allow a freshly-formed tube to extend out an open window or door to reach the desired length.

Strip craft paper on a rack of 5′ diameter rolls is fed through a glue bath, squeegeed of excess, then wound staggered around a metal  ‘mandrel’ the diameter of the inside. A saw near the end travels with the tube is it’s being formed to cut it off in a straight line. A 3′ (1m) long tube is produced at about 5 per minute. It’s a belt driven process, fun to watch!

I personally enjoy getting to know a new resource, seeing new machines in action and meeting new talent …makes me think about what we can do with cardboard tubes now!

 

Ledr project: tools of the trade

A work shop supervisor I met in Germany years ago told me that craftsmanship is a journey, not a destination. It’s always rewarding to meet and work with true craftsmen, hearing their stories, watching how they work, learning about their sometimes quirky tools, techniques & process – all carefully collected over decades, with the sole purpose of delivering ever better work.

In the age of modern marketing, words like ‘craftsmanship’ are used so frequently that their meaning is lost, so it’s refreshing to occasionally re-discover the ‘real thing’. The team at Abas Leather are true craftsmen in every sense, working with their hands doing one thing, and doing it very well for over 50 years.

The centerpiece of leather production is the sewing machine itself – industrial grade, 220V, built like a tank with enough torque to put a needle through a sheet of plywood. The best ones have a ‘walking foot’, a clamping/feeding system that holds the thick leather in place & together while the needle is passed through. These machines are built to last forever an they’re lovingly protected by craftsmen who own them; you simply can’t separate the two (I tried!).